"Apple has put the design of great customer experiences on the map, not just as a means to win creative kudos but as a way to earn billions of dollars and revolutionize industries. "Apple's big contribution is showing that you can become a billionaire by selling emotions, that design can be a valid business model," says Gadi Amit, founder of NewDealDesign, a product design boutique in San Francisco."
Businessweek online has a nice piece about Jonathan Ive, the design chief at Apple, dating back before Jobs' return to the helm: Who is Jonathan Ive? I'm working on an extended project about best practices in leading and managing innovation, and I found this article meshed very well with the learning we are getting from others.
A few of the things that struck me about this piece relate to the process of innovation and environment that enables it as much as the end product of innovation.
1. Making your own decisions about what's good
Ive's team doesn't attend a lot of design conferences, even though they win lots of awards. The two reasons offered for this is that they themselves are the highest standard they know of, and the team focuses on the judgment of team members, rather than external recognition. Ives also admits that they don't want to let others in on too much on their process, or they might be able to close the gap.
2. Limiting the number of projects
When you take on too much, you don't do any of it well. Far better to ask your team to do a few things really well; things that might give you real lift-off compared to your competitive set.
3. Set the standard for success, then work to that
The example used was 'no visible screws'. These are constraints that force tremendous innovation in design.
4. Don't put your innovators in a ghetto, make them part of the core business
Apple's design team is closely involved with engineering and production.The products not only have to look good, they have to be something that can be manufactured and that works. The design team works directly with suppliers to create new finishes and new methods of using injection moulding. The suppliers get better themselves by virtue of working with Apple.
5. Seek to fail and improve
If you're not failing, you're not trying. Here's how Ives puts it:
"One of the hallmarks of the team I think is this sense of looking to be wrong. It's the inquisitiveness, the sense of exploration. It's about being excited to be wrong because then you've discovered something new."
A former Apple designer, Hartmut Esslinger confirms that the innovation process includes failure:
"Apple innovates in big ways and small ways, and if they don't get it right, they innovate again. It is the only tech company that does this."
A rather bizarre thing -- www.jonathanive.com is not actually run by Ive, although it is dedicated to him. It seems to be on a mission to gather AdSense revenue, perhaps from a devoted fan. I can't imagine how odd this must feel.
More stuff about Ive, plus lots of pictures are on the Wikipedia site. [Is having your own wikipedia bio page that others take the time to edit a new definition of fame?]
Thanks to Core 77 Design Blog for pointing out the story, [even though the magazine itself was sitting on my kitchen counter at the time... such is the new world of information.]